“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink …” Those words, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797-98 in his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” portray the life essence of water as experienced by sailors stuck in an ice jam surrounded only by the saltiness of the sea. Centuries later, that phrase has been burned into our consciousness, but it echoes today in a harsh reality depicting one of the world’s biggest problems — lack of water that is safe to drink.
It is to that avail that Cirque du Soleil presents its annual philanthropic event, One Night for One Drop, in which cast and crew donate their talent and time to create a unique and breathtaking theatrical show for one night only to support the international nonprofit organization One Drop. In 2019, the seventh edition of the celebrated charity show will take place on March 8 in the “O” Theatre at Bellagio Resort & Casino under the direction of André Kasten and Leah Moyer. Created by Cirque’s founder Guy Laliberté in 2007, One Drop is dedicated to providing access to safe water.
“Water is behind everything else,” said Jerry Nadal, Cirque du Soleil’s senior vice president, resident shows, and executive producer of One Night for One Drop. “Guy dug into the issue and discovered that the majority of the ways of providing access to clean water were not sustainable. So he decided to take a sustainable approach with people who were already involved and not reinvent the wheel. Through its unique Social Art for Behavior Change approach, One Drop mobilizes communities, raises awareness and fosters healthy water and sanitation habits to work toward sustainability.”
“Since 2013, the event has raised more than $35 million to support One Drop’s mission. Providing sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene is a transformative force to improve the living conditions of some of the world’s most vulnerable communities,” Nadal says.
“Right now, we’re active in Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador), Africa and India” Nadal said. “Each one is a five-year project. We use local social arts — painting of murals and theater — to institute a change of behavior in the communities that will emotionally resonate with them. It’s the psychological aspect. We work together with them, but we don’t tell them what to do.”
AT A GLANCE, THE PROBLEM SEEMS INSURMOUNTABLE:
- 2.1 billion people don’t have access to safe water at home.
- Every 90 seconds, a child dies from a waterborne disease.
- 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities.
- A third of all schools lack basic water and sanitation facilities.
- The average distance a woman has to walk daily to collect water is 3.7 miles, or the lengths of 65 football fields.
- 443 million school days are missed each year because of water-related illnesses.
But as proof that one entity can make a difference, One Drop has the ability to end up impacting 1.3 million people.
While he and Laliberté collectively came up with the concept for One Night for One Drop, Nadal was the one who suggested doing a fundraiser in Las Vegas using Cirque talent. The charity event is different every year, and it takes four to five months to prepare for this one night.
Kasten and Moyer, who were choreographers for the 2014 and 2015 events, are writing and directing the 2019 show. By November 2018, it had already been a six-month project.
“We’re doing a new take on the show,” Kasten said. “Our vision has come from having been part of it and seeing it throughout the years. Previously, the shows have been about water as a charity. Ours is not necessarily an entire story about trying to find water. Our approach is one of empathy. It’s difficult for us to know what it’s like not to have water. We want to connect with the audience on a personal level and try to move them.”
The theme revolves around two main characters, Everyman and a seven-year-old girl named Drop who personifies One Night for One Drop. Everyman is going through life with blinders on, and Drop takes him — and the audience — on a journey of enlightenment through natural beauty, technology, excess, destruction, humanity, and love and loss. Each aspect is a personification in the show.
“In the end, Everyman feels overwhelmed by the world around him,” Kasten said. “But he doesn’t know how to help. Through Drop, he learns that it all starts with one touch of kindness, which creates a ripple effect. The change we seek truly starts with ourselves.”
There are 115 cast members representing many genres not normally associated with Cirque. Ninety percent of the music is original, written by Michael Brennan, Franco Dragone’s composer, and Tony Award-nominated lyricist and arranger AnnMarie Milazzo. Alexander Ekman and Andrew Winghart are choreographing the show.
“In writing it, André and I came in with a strong plan and approach,” Moyer said. “We were open to how the stage and art spoke to us. Ultimately, this show is a reason to bring people together to care about their fellow man. We should care when our brothers and sisters of the world are in need.”
Overall, there is one important message Nadal wants the audience to understand.
“Water is a global issue,” he sums up. “It is a finite resource globally that we have to share. It’s not someone else’s problem. It affects everyone on our planet. We are all connected. It is our problem.”